Posts tagged John Gardner
Summer Reading. Institute Style
This summer we asked the staff and fellows of the Gardner Institute to tell us what they were reading. We had a small peek into their bookshelves and compiled a list of favorites. The list runs the gamut from insightful books and articles about teaching, learning, and the current political climate, to fascinating biographies, gardening books, and escapist novels! We anticipated a diverse list of books which we would immediately want to add to our own bookshelf They did not disappoint.

This summer we asked the staff and fellows of the Gardner Institute to tell us what they were reading. We had a small peek into their bookshelves and compiled a list of favorites. The list runs the gamut from insightful books and articles about teaching, learning, and the current political climate, to fascinating biographies, gardening books, and escapist novels! We anticipated a diverse list of books which we would immediately want to add to our own bookshelf They did not disappoint.

The New York Times, The Atlantic and Longmire Mysteries

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.05.53 AM.png
Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.06.59 AM.png

John Gardner 

Gardner Institute

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.09.28 AM.png

My summer reading (in between classical music concerts at the Brevard Music Center with my wife Dr. Betsy Barefoot) consists of:

  1. Daily devouring of The New York Times

  2. The latest issue of The Atlantic Magazine

  3. Working my way through the entire series of the Longmire Mysteries 13 volumes by Craig Johnson!


Slavery in Small Things Slavery and Modern Cultural Habits, by James Walvin


Drew Koch

Gardner Institute


In his book, Slavery in Small Things: Slavery and Modern Cultural Habits, James Walvin chronicles how London, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, and other 18th and 19th century British cities thrived on slave commerce. This commerce took many forms. It was found in the transportation of enslaved Africans to the Americas. It was also evident in the distribution of slave-produced goods such as tobacco, sugar, cocoa, coffee, tea, and mahogany. And it manifested itself in creation of whole industries that were tightly connected to slave-produced goods such as porcelain (for sugar bowls and tea sets), pipes (for tobacco), coffee houses, and exquisite furnishings (made from mahogany). In short, the British Isles and European mainland were inextricably linked with slavery. However, unlike the American continent, where, as Walvin notes, “the modern American state came into being in 1787 arguing about slavery” (Walvin, 2017, p. 3), slavery by and large remained out of sight in Britain and Europe, even if it “had become part of the warp and weft of British commercial and social life” (p. 4).  The book has been a fascinating read. It has me thinking about how, in the contemporary era, the legacy of slavery is still manifesting itself in many “small things” that add up in big ways in the United States.  In fact, I am drawing on these exact thoughts to help frame a chapter in a forthcoming book on gateway courses – since, sadly, as I’ve shown in previous scholarship, race is one of the most significant factors in predicting who does or does not succeed in gateway courses in college.


Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students,  by Zaretta Hammond

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 11.41.41 AM.png

Isis Artze

Florida International University


This summer, I'm reading Zaretta Hammond's Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. In it, she describes a four-part framework for teaching in culturally responsive ways, one that combines the research on cognition with that on culture and inclusion, and - importantly - offers practical guidance for those of us wanting to engage in this critical work. Hammond argues convincingly that culturally responsive teaching is “one of our most powerful tools for helping students find their way out of the [achievement] gap.” The four categories of the Ready for Rigor Framework are awareness, learning partnerships, information processing, and community of learners. I've been meaning to read it for quite some time now, so I signed up to facilitate a faculty book group this summer and had the pleasure of discussing it with extremely thoughtful faculty colleagues, mostly from STEM fields. Since Hammond’s examples and anecdotes are from the K-12 sector, some of our discussions focused on identifying what’s relevant to our contexts and how we might adapt some of the strategies. One of the features I most appreciate about Hammond’s book is her explicitness, as I find that some authors are so careful with their language when discussing matters of race and inclusion that their insights become muddled. Here’s an example from the awareness category of her framework, one that I consider the key element of culturally responsive teaching: “Every culturally responsive teacher develops a socio-political consciousness, an understanding that we live in a racialized society that gives us unearned privilege to some while others experience unearned disadvantage because of race, gender, class, or language.” 


Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World – and Why Things are Always Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 11.53.41 AM.png

Rob Rodier

Gardner Institute


Rosling talks about using data and visualizations based on facts from the World Bank and United Nations and describes ways to use a “fact-based framework” to view and reason about the world. Overall, it is a story about how the world is getting better despite what you may always hear or the “negativity instinct.” Hans discusses this negativity instinct and 9 more instincts in relation to modern data that supports the instincts (or not).


Educated,  by Tara Westover

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 12.17.31 PM.png

Rebecca Campbell 

Northern Arizona University


I'm reading Tara Westover’s Educated.  I tend not to risk reading anything that’s fiction unless it’s recommended or I already am familiar with the author.  Educated was highly recommended by colleagues and was the NY Time’s May book club choice.  So, as the dust has literally and figuratively settled after my very hectic June (moved, got married, taught 2 courses, blah, blah, blah), I was being really picky about what to choose for my precious quiet time.  Fiction is a treat and I maxed out on professional development books about pedagogy last Spring.  I am also transitioning to the role of part-time associate dean in our College of Education right now.  So, the story of an individual who never stepped foot in a classroom was particularly intriguing.  With all of the recent protests and changes to public education, the idea of reading about someone who was denied a K-12 formal education really caught my attention.  I’m only a short-ways in but the book is great thus far!


IQ, by Joe Ide

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 12.32.37 PM.png

Peter Felton

Elon University


IQ is a smart and quirky detective novel, the first by author Joe Ide. The main character, Isaiah Quintabe (aka IQ), is a brilliant orphan who is trying to make a life for himself in a crime-soaked part of Long Beach, California. IQ is a charming but imperfect protagonist -- reviewers often compare him to Sherlock Holmes. However, IQ lives in a very different world than Sherlock, and in many ways, IQ is a more likable person than that other super smart detective. At the start of the book, IQ is trying to mind his own business and make his corner of the world a somewhat better place, although he has some unresolved issues from his past that keeps, him up at night. The story moves quickly, and the writing is compelling -- funny and profane. The characters and the story are memorable. This is not the most profound book you’ll read this summer, but it might be the most enjoyable.


Calypso, by David Sedaris

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 3.09.48 PM.png

Betsy Barefoot

Gardner Institute


“Calypso” by David Sedaris.  Anyone who has read Sedaris knows that occasionally he says outrageous, scatological things, but if a reader can get over that, overall this book is really sweet – it’s about his aging father, his sister who committed suicide, his other sisters who are famous in their own right and his partner Hugh.  I loved it – it’s a story about a family – a strange family but one in which there is a lot of love. 


Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 3.14.06 PM.png

Bryan Dewsbury

University of Rhode Island


In this multi-generational story, Ghanaian-American author Yaa Gyasi documents the lived experiences of the offspring of two half-sisters. One sister married a village 'big man' in the Ashanti kingdom, was captured and sold into the Transatlantic slave trade, and the other married a British officer and lived in the slave castle in Cape Coast, Ghana. Each chapter is a vivid description of life in either 18th century Ghana or generations of slavery, through reconstruction in America. Though this is a work of fiction, each generational depiction is factually accurate, both in her construction of the social contexts, and the specific ways in which social inequities were handed down to subsequent generations. This unintentional handing down of disadvantage is what makes this work so powerful. By the end, one certainly senses that engaging in this writing may have been cathartic for the author. Certainly, her work shines a new light on how one might think of 'generations of blackness', not just in America or Africa, but anywhere chattel slavery caused its spread and permanence.


Flat Broke With Two Goats, a Memoir by Jennifer McCana

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 3.03.54 PM.png

Sara Stein Koch

Gardner Institute


Flat Broke With Two Goats is the memoir of a local (Asheville area) well-educated woman and her life of bad financial decisions. What I liked about the book was both its honesty and how it left the reader slapping her head saying “really?!”. For any Asheville or Brevard native, there are numerous references to places that you’ll recognize.


The Road from Coorain, by Jill Ker Conway

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 3.23.27 PM.png

Catherine Andersen

University of Baltimore


I just finished reading The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway the first woman to serve as Smiths College President.  I recall that Roberta told me she was at her recent college reunion. 

Jill died this June, and I was inspired to learn more about her after reading her obituary. The Road from Coorain is a beautifully written memoir of growing up in the wilds of Australia.  I was touched by her story and the influences on her by her parents -especially her mother who in her own way was a woman well ahead of her time but limited by circumstances. 

Jill -even as a child- navigated complicated family dynamics and managed to emerge as a brilliant scholar, leader, and humanitarian.  

Loved this book and wish, as Roberta did, I  could have met this wonderful person.


Eunice, the Kennedy who Changed the World, by Eileen McNamara

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 3.54.39 PM.png

Katie Locke

Gardner Institute


I recently heard an interview with Maria Shriver, Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s daughter and it drove me to want to learn more about her mother. I read Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World. While Eunice’s brothers were groomed to be politicians and leaders of the free world, Eunice, smart and Stanford educated created her own opportunities. She was driven by a desire for equality, passionate about advocating for individuals with disabilities, and unwilling to be hampered by familial or societal views of the role of women in the political stage.  Eunice started the Special Olympics, McNamara illustrates her impact is far-reaching and more impactful than any of her siblings.

Eileen McNamara’s biography is both intimate, and comprehensive. She portrays Eunice as a mother, a devoted Catholic, and the formidable woman whose impact is far-reaching.  A great read and a book to share with your daughters.


Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, by James M. Lang

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 4.25.34 PM.png

Vicki McGillin

Gardner Institute


When looking for readings that offer accessible, small and impactful approaches that are based in the cognitive sciences, this is one of the most frequently recommended books today.  While not a learning scientist (his discipline is English), Lang has offered a very easy to read compilation of learning activities that can be easily introduced in the classroom.  His approach to curricular transformation is an evolutionary one (one small change at a time that can cumulatively lead to meaningful outcomes). Not all curricular changes have to be BIG to achieve significant results. He backs his approaches with a lay understanding of the science and the pedagogy.  His chapters cover both learning factual information and the development of cognitive skills (reading, writing, problem-solving), as well as developing a mastery orientation.  Highly recommended.   I couldn't stop at just one so I am also recommending 84K by Claire North

84K,  by Claire North

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 4.29.11 PM.png

It is hard to recommend such a dark, dystopian novel for summer reading, but perhaps, it takes a bright summers’ day to work through Claire North’s vision of a not distant future England, where every life has a monetary value and crimes are punished by fines according to the value of the person and the nature of the offense.  You enter this world through the life of a man (sometimes) called Theo Miller, who has spent his entire adult life creating the most inoffensive “jedermann” persona possible.  His careful and joyless balancing act is disrupted when he learns that he may have fathered a child, now a teenager lost in the system.  Crossing several timelines, this novel explores the uncovering of the man under the persona, as he seeks the one thing that may give meaning to his life. North's vision of this near future, wholly owned by the Company, rings uncomfortably close to some contemporary currents.


Taming Wildflowers, by Miriam Goldberger

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 12.42.55 PM.png

Carol Huhn

Gardner Institute


This book is a wonderful resource for learning more about the importance and benefits of incorporating native plants into your landscape.  Despite its small size, it is rich with detail regardless of the region in which you live. It’s a “keeper” in my gardener’s library!


All books are available online or from your favorite local independent bookseller.

The Transfer Experience Versus The First-Year Experience: How Do They Measure Up?

I have just returned from a stimulating professional development experience, the 15th annual National Conference on Transfer, hosted by the NISTS, the National Institute for the Study of the Transfer Student. NISTS is located at the University of North Georgia. Founded by Dr. Bonita Jacobs, their President at UNG, this work was originally birthed when she was the chief students affairs officer at the University of North Texas. The meeting has been held each year in late January/February windows in either Dallas or Atlanta. Next year it will be in Atlanta again, February 7-9.

I am interested in the transfer student experience for multiple reasons:

  1. As a national higher education system, our performance with them in terms of getting them to BA degree attainment has been miserable.
  2. Transfer is now the normative route to the bachelor’s degree.
  3. My finding and contention is that transfer is still relatively low status—that is what I am writing about here.
  4. Earlier in my career at the University of South Carolina I founded a conference in 1995 and it is still going strong; “Students in Transition” which features a track on transfer students. The next meeting will be held in Costa Mesa, CA, October 21-23, 2017.
  5. The non-profit organization ( I lead has been trying to make a dent in this low priority since we launched in 2010 our Foundations of Excellence Transfer Focus process (, an assessment and planning initiative to provide for institutions a comprehensive plan to improve transfer—which few campuses have and all need. We have engaged sixty institutions in this work: 24 four-year and 36 two-year colleges and universities.
  6. Our non-profit, Gardner Institute, is also a current recipient of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation planning grant to plan new work to integrate into high failure rate gateway courses taken by transfers digital learning components and pedagogies.

So all of the above lines of interest coalesced and brought me to this excellent transfer conference, February 15-17 for my second experience in this meeting.

In my work on transfer student success I have several dominant lenses in which I view the current status of transfers.

The first is that I see the level of attention and priority paid to transfer students as being about what that level of attention and priority was towards first-year students in the early 1980’s.

And second, and the subject of this posting, is that I am so struck by the inequities that are experienced by transfer students.

So just undertake with me a relatively brief and simple comparison of these two populations and especially how we in the academy go about treating them. A way to do this is to use what the Gardner Institute calls in its work a “policy analysis” …. basically an inventory of the policies that are directed towards transfer students and which can be used to compare with comparable policies for first-year students. Consider then the relative policies applying to first-year versus transfer students for:

  1. Application deadlines for admission
  2. Capacity for slots in any given academic term
  3. Financial aid awards—institutional monies, need versus merit based, special awards for first-year versus transfer students—amounts and eligibility guidelines
  4. Continued eligibility for such awards after first year of enrollment
  5. Eligibility for on-campus residential accommodations
  6. Application deadlines for housing
  7. Priority for allocation of available spaces in housing
  8. Eligibility for participation in student organizations, clubs, teams, student government, etc.
  9. Eligibility for leadership positions in student organizations
  10. Allocation for admission slots into high demand majors
  11. Registration priority and deadlines
  12. Availability of student organizations devoted to supporting this cohort
  13. Availability of special orientation and advising initiatives to support this cohort
  14. Availability of college/student success-first-year seminars for this population
  15. Stipulations that certain forms of student support be required versus optional for these populations
  16. The existence on the campus of a high level academic officer with specific responsibility for the welfare of this cohort
  17. In like manner, the existence of an advocate, champion at the institutional level, for the needs of this population, other than and beyond processing by Enrollment Management
  18. In like manner, an advocate at the academic unit in decentralized universities
  19. The priority for making available “High Impact Practices”
  20. The availability of such curricular cohorts as learning communities
  21. Availability of opportunities for on-campus employment
  22. Availability of opportunities for internships, practicum experiences and study abroad (with financial aid support)
  23. Internal systems of accountability for retention and graduation rates for this population
  24. A priority for addressing needs of this population as expressed in the institution’s strategic plan
  25. Being on the priority list and attention agenda for senior leaders and spokespersons
  26. A priority for gathering, analyzing, discussing institutional research data

And I am sure the above list is not an exhaustive inventory.
My prediction is that if you undertake such comparisons, you will find the transfer student cohort has drawn a very short stick. And that is our biggest challenge.

And as a mirror of low campus priority, and in part a cause of this lower priority, is the fact that the US Department of Education does not count transfer students in its IPEDS (Integrated Post-Secondary Educational Data System) model for measuring retention and graduation rates.

And hence the media’s ranking processes for institutional prestige, especially USNWR, also does not “count” these students.

So, if you buy my thesis and model here, what might we do to move the transfer experience further along to more closely approximate the status now of “the first-year experience?”

Ah, that calls for another blog posting, actually multiple postings, given that has been the focus of my work since the early 1980’s.

In the meantime, please try your version of the policy audit toolkit described above. And then act on your findings. Be prepared to have your notions of equity and social justice challenged when you remember just who these transfer students are when compared to first-year, first-time, full-time students.

I was not a transfer student and I’m glad I wasn’t. In my case, this was the luck of the draw as the adopted person I am. I was a second-generation college student, fully supported by affluent parents. If I had been a transfer student, I might not be where I am today given the biases then, let alone now, in our higher education system. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

pb+j BuilderJohn Gardner
What a Difference the First Year of College Can Make

I have devoted most of my exactly fifty-year career to trying the make the first year of American higher education a more positive experience for our students—in terms of their learning, personal growth, maturation, satisfaction, retention, self-esteem, and more. But I never stop asking what more/else can we do? And I keep looking for illustrations of what we do accomplish.

The traditional end of the conventional academic year for full-time college students is a good time to be reflecting on a question like this. So, what did we accomplish for our first-year students this particular year? And what a year it was! The year of Donald Trump’s election, deep national divide, and great disaffection, despair and anger on the part of students who rightfully believe that others do not think their “lives matter.”

Of course, we are all profoundly shaped by our own life experiences, from the past of long ago and the very immediate present. Hopefully, experiences in both and all domains give us college educators more empathy to understand our students, and in this case, what difference does the first year make.

Just the past April, I had to give a talk in Dallas and that happens to be the city where my wife, Betsy Barefoot, has a grandchild who chose to go there for her undergraduate education. Her choice was driven by many variables including the wishes of her parents, but mainly it was for the opportunity to play college varsity volleyball. She had been an all-around outstanding high school student with stellar academic, athletic, leadership and interpersonal skills. If ever there was a kid who was prepared for college this was one.

So, I secured her willingness to have me come out to campus and pay her a brief visit. She gave me a great gift, namely about three hours of her time. This included a tour of the campus including her residence hall room and a lunch with her significant other, a young man whom she had praised in advance to me because as she put it: “He is a real gentleman; he listens to me and we talk a lot.” She was having a very successful academic year. Dean’s List for first semester and looking like she would have an encore performance for second term. Making an extremely good social adjustment. Lots of friends. Nodded, smiled, and spoke to many students as she walked me around the campus. Obviously was very at home at the place. Compatible with all three of her room mates. Enjoying the volleyball even though she had been injured and was going to have to have knee surgery. This is an incredibly cheerful, positive, open, enthusiastic young woman. She remains focused on pursuing a long held academic and career goal: becoming an elementary school teacher. She is very focused, highly motivated. She maintains regular and excellent communication with her parents, who are the foundation for a very functional family with four children.

So, I asked her if she thought college had changed her any. She paused for a long time and finally shared that she thought it had—“somewhat” …”maybe a little……” But there was a tentativeness about her response. I wondered if it was because she hadn’t really been asking herself about that. Or if it was because she just had such a fundamentally positive disposition about everything and almost everyone. I concluded that she really didn’t know. She hadn’t had enough time or detachment to make a judgement about that.  She allowed as if she thought it had made her “somewhat” or “slightly” more “independent.” I have known this student since she was born, for 18 years, and if there were any changes as a result of the first year, they were very subtle and not discernible to my well-trained eye.

And it was inevitable that I would compare her to my own first year, what I had been like at the start, and where I found myself at the end of that year.

I think she arrived at college well adjusted. I did not.

She made good friends immediately. I did not.

She was immediately successful academically. I was not

She was on a varsity athletic team. I was on a junior varsity team (lightweight crew).

She had received an academic scholarship. I certainly did not.

She was the first child of her siblings to go to college. So was I.

She didn’t confess any initial homesickness to me. I was terribly homesick.

She had a declared major and a career orientation that is very strong, very certain. I had no major. Never did. Thank you Marietta College for not making me chose a major.

She terminated a “from back home” romantic relationship in the first year and entered a new one. I did neither. But should have.

She was very disciplined as a student. I was not.

She ended up on the Dean’s List after first semester. I ended up on academic probation.

She had fellow room mates who were also making a successful adjustment to college. I did not. My first room- mate was so homesick that he left college (and me) after the first six weeks! I didn’t know you could leave college. It wasn’t an option my father had given me! He was replaced by a second room-mate. He was a heavy drinker, often as he lay nearly prone in his bunk, from which he acquired the nickname “Bunky.” He also dropped out, flunked out, after the first year of college.

I got no sense that she had changed her views about organized religion. I changed mine, drastically, from a budding agnostic to a convinced agnostic. She had entered with a strong Christian faith, I had not. My introduction to sociology course destroyed what conventional religious notions I had left.

I finished the first year of college having rejected my parents’ political persuasion, a deep loyalty to the Republican party. I had never heard a good word about the Democrats until such came out of the mouths of some of my professors. My wife’s grandchild has two liberal Democrats for parents and I certainly caught no wind that their first-year student had changed her political persuasion.

I was not making good choices about my romantic life. She appears to be!

I had become very engaged with a number of professors. I was thriving in my relationship with my academic advisor. I visited many of my professors in their offices and some of them in their homes too. I have no sense that she has this kind of relationship with her faculty even though both of us had started at small, private colleges.

She is already planning a study abroad in the second semester of her sophomore year. I never developed any plan for study abroad. She is already way ahead of me in that regard.

She will end the first year with a much higher GPA than I did. All I can say in summary comparison on this point is that at least I managed to get off academic probation by the end of the first year.

She has a summer job lined up that is compatible with her career aspiration of being an elementary school teacher: that of a camp counselor. She has had this job lined up for a year. I had no job lined up when I went home. My father, not liking what he was seeing college do to me, thought I needed “a job where you will be in the real world and see how the other half lives!? He arranged a manual labor job for me in a factory for a company in which he was a senior executive. So, I became a unionized steelworker making beer cans in the pits of urban New Jersey.

In sum, the jury is in on me. It is still way out on this grandchild. She shows far more promise at this point than I did. But I am betting that college changed me far more than it will change her. I needed that. Maybe she doesn’t. We are very different people. I think I finished the first year more intellectually engaged, more intellectually transformed than she is. She is on her way far more to attaining her career objectives than I was at the same point. Hey, I didn’t have any career objectives. She is ending her first year happier than I, much more satisfied.

The first year of college was good for both of us. But she sure does show much more promise at the end of the first year than I did.

Let’s bring this back to you my reader: what are you trying to facilitate for your first-year students?

What do you most want for them?

What are you providing to make that happen?

What kind of priority are first-year students at your institution?

Are you trying to “transform” them in anything approaching the manner I think my college transformed me?

What kind of experiences did you have in your first year of college that serve as your experiential base of empathy for your own first-year students?

My first year of college was a case study for how a college could have done a whole lot more for me and how I could have done a whole lot better. This has profoundly influenced my work, my life, and thus many, many other lives as well. What can you say about your impact on first-year college students?

And by the way, I didn’t have a university 101, college success, first-year seminar type course. But I sure could have benefited from one. My alma mater has one now, for sure! And I am part of the reason for that.